Thursday, May 31, 2012

Marong Mahawangsa (an extract)

(This is an extract from a forth coming title from Silverfish Books, Marong Mahawangsa, that we have edited to make it more accessible to the modern reader -- but without changing too much of the old style of language -- and cross referencing with other books covering the same periods for improved coherence. The original author, of this tale of Homeric proportions, is unknown but the current is, largely, based on a translation by Lt Col James Low in 1849 in The Journal of the Indian Archipelago.)

The voyage and shipwreck of Marong Mahawangsa

The work begins with praises of the Prophet Suliman, or Solomon, “to whom the dominion of the whole world and every living thing in it was entrusted by God.”

There was a Raja of Rum who despatched an ambassador named Raja Marong (Maha) Wangsa to China in order to negociate a marriage betwixt the prince, his son, and a daughter of His Chinese Majesty. This ambassador traced his lineage from the inferior gods. His father was descended from the genii, and his mother from the devadeva, or demigods. He was a great raja amongst the many rajas who had been assembled by the king on this occasion, and he moreover wore a diadem.

Raja Marong Mahawangsa had married, contrary to the wish of his parents, a girl whose father was a girgassi raja and whose mother was descended from the rakshasa. Whereever he went, he took her with him as he feared the grandees of the [Persian(?)] Court who dreaded his preternatural powers.

After the war of Rama, the island of Lankapuri became a desert and fell under the rule of the mighty bird, Girda(Garuda), which however had previously harboured on the island. He was a lineal descendant from Maha Raja Dewan and he was strong in battle, of supernatural power and dreaded by animals, reptiles and birds.

It happened that the bird, Rajawali, paid a visit to Girda, and asked him if he had not learned that the King of Rum intended contracting a marriage betwixt his son and a princess of China although these two countries lay wide apart and that, on account of the distance between them, a fleet of vessels was to be despatched from Rum to convey the royal lady from China. Girda replied that the old Crow had already given him this information as he had seen the gift bearing embassy on its way to China. Girda further observed that the King of Rum would most likely fail in this attempt to display his power and consequence to distant potentates.

“Have a little patience, Rajawali, I will instantly fly off and pay my respects to the Prophet Suliman (Solomon) whose superhuman wisdom has exalted him over all the other kings of the earth, and whose prime minister is Hurmanshah. His Majesty will, assuredly, interdict the King of Rum from negociating such an alliance.”

Girda having reported to King Suliman the state of affairs, His Majesty observed that when a prince and princess are once betrothed, it is not an easy matter to break off the alliance. Girda, not satisfied with this remark, swore that he would abandon the haunts of men and cease to wheel in the heavens, should he fail to effect their separation. The king said, ‘Very well, let me know the result.’ Girda now soared aloft on his dusky pinions and speedily reached China. He here alighted in a garden where the princess, attended by her foster mother and an attendant, was gathering flowers. Girda instantly lifted the three into the air, one by his beak and the two others in his talons, and carried them over the sea to Lankapuri where he protected them, and supplied the princess with every delicacy she desired.

The Sultan of Rum gave a large buhtera, or ship, to his chief, Marong Mahawangsa, for the accommodation of the prince, and another for himself and his people, for the voyage to China. To these were added many smaller vessels for the suite. The fleet sailed on a fortunate day and, as it went along, touched at all the ports which were then under the empire of Rum, the embassy receiving, at each of these, the accustomed marks of respect. At length, it entered the Sea of  Hindustan and beheld its wonders. Then, coasting down that continent, the fleet anchored occasionally in the bays of the islands where the people sought for shell-fish, fired guns and, otherwise, amused themselves.

After a while, it reached the mouth of the Changong River where reigned Raja Galungi, or Kalungi.

Girda, bent on his plan of frustrating the expedition, here raised a violent storm of wind and rain, thunder and lightning. He was beheld high in the air, casting his vast shadow over the fleet. The prince and the ambassador directed their men to shout and to fire guns, and discharge enchanted arrows at the direful bird who, wild with rage, had taken up his position to the westward of the fleet. Marong Mahawangsa now strung his bow, or busor, and adjusted to it the arrow called Ayunan. The common arrows and shots, merely, glanced off Girda’s feathers, but this enchanted one put him to flight. This, however, was only effected with the loss of three of the vessels. Girda had, before this, shifted from the West, and hurled another tempest on the vessels from North to South. Thus was Girda, for the present, driven off by the potency of the arrow Ayunan, which has its point tipped with red, as if with fire, and which ascended towards Girda with a noise like that of a tufan, interposing betwixt the latter and the ships a mountain barrier. The remaining ships cast anchor that night to see if Girda would return but, as he had fled to the forests on the shore, they weighed next morning and set sail southwardly.

After a voyage of some days, the ships reached Tawai River where it disembogues into the sea.

The fleet had scarcely arrived when Girda again appeared, sending a tempest before him of rain, thunder and lightning. The two vessels of the prince and ambassador were anchored close together, and the other ships were stationed around them and kept ready with their arms. Marong Mahawangsa, having seized his bow with the arrow named Bratpura, with its point flaming with fire, and having stood out on the gunwale, off shot the arrow towards the sky. It sped with a loud noise and, in its descent, dispelled the tempest. But, notwithstanding the innumerable flights of arrows, and the constant firing and shouting of the sailors, Girda contrived to carry off three more vessels for he was invulnerable to all these missiles. So, after a short respite, he returned to his work of destruction as before.

Again Marong Mahawangsa sent the arrow, Bratpura, at him, which he avoided and it thus fell into the sea. Whereupon, Girda snatched away three more ships in his beak and talons, and soared aloft with them. Thus, six vessels were lost with all their crews. On the ensuing day, as Girda did not appear, the remnant of the fleet set sail in its now dismantled condition, having had twelve ships with all their crews destroyed. The fleet soon after got to  the port of Mrit.

But here, at Mrit, it was again assailed by a furious storm, which darkened the heavens and shook the timbers of the ships, brigs, and gallies. Marong Mahawangsa resorted to the former expedient and, having got upon the top of the stern, drew his bow called Prasa Sampani Gambara and shot his flaming arrow, saying, speed arrow and slay Girda. But, Girda avoided it by making it glance off his plumage. Enraged, he pounced upon three more of the ships and vessels, and carried them off as he had done with the rest, in spite of the firing and shouting of the crews, for these vessels were also destroyed. Raja Mahawangsa, in a furious passion, shot another arrow towards the heavens, whereupon the arrow was changed into a bird named Jintayu, which gave chase to Girda. But, Girda vomited fire on Jintayu and consumed him. Girda, now, kept aloof in the mountains, dreading the supernatural endowments of Marong Mahawangsa. Next morning, the remnant of the fleet sailed away from Mrit and, after some days, came in sight of Salang, in the sea called Tappan. Here, having cast anchor abreast of the island, the ambassador sent a party on shore to ask permission of the chief, or raja, to wood and water, but the prince’s vessel with other ships stood on down the coast by rounding the point of the island.

About a day and night after the prince left Salang and was making for the island of Lankapuri, Girda espied his ships and perceived also that Marong Mahawangsa was not come up, so he attacked them with redoubled fury and sunk the whole; the men who were drowned far exceeded in number those who were saved alive. Fortunately, the Prince of Rum got hold of a plank and floated to Lankapuri. In the meanwhile, Marong Mahawangsa’s ship arrived at the spot of the shipwreck and picked up the survivors who were floating about.

Marong Mahawangsa was excessively grieved at the loss of the prince, especially as he felt himself responsible for it to the Sultan of Rum. But after a vain search, he sailed in his vessel, the only remaining one, to the eastward.

Keeping along this coast of the continent, Marong Mahawangsa arrived at a bay and a point of land. He inquired of an old malim (captain), who was in his ship, if he knew the locality, who said, “The large island we have reached is now becoming attached to the main land and its name is Pulo Srai (or Sri, my lord). That small island which Your Highness sees is named Pulo Jumbul, and that other, more inshore, is Pulo Lada.” On hearing this, Mahawangsa expressed himself satisfied and added, if such be the case, let us anchor. The vessel was then moored in the east of the bay, near to, or at the point of land, on the main shore; that is, the land more extensive than that large island.

Raja Marong Mahawangsa then went on shore, attended by his chiefs and followers.